By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Credit card readers are easy to use for businesses and customers, and now they’ve also become a target for thieves.

Brooklyn Park Police say a ring of thieves is going around the Twin Cities stealing the machines off counters.

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They then use them to steal money and put it on credit cards.

Edwin Chile was working by himself at Maddie’s Liquor on Aug. 18 when a man and two women walked into his liquor store. The women went to the back and asked Edwin for help. That proved to be a distraction.

“So when I walked to the back I handed the two girls a bottle,” Chile said. “And then when I was coming back what I saw was that the machine was gone.”

The store’s surveillance video clearly showed that the man had made off with Chile’s credit card machine. What wasn’t clear is what he planned on doing with it.

“What are they going to do with the machine? They can’t even sell it at a pawn shop because nobody’s going to buy it,” Chile said.

But hours later thieves started pulling money out of Chile’s bank account — $16,000 in all.

“I called the police and we made the report,” Chile said.

Maddie’s Liquor isn’t the only victim of this new form of shoplifting.

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Police said a criminal ring is hitting businesses across the Twin Cities.

They stole nearly $200,000 from the Brunswick Zone in Brooklyn Park after making off with three credit card readers.

The thieves used the machines to give themselves refunds and to transfer money onto their own credit cards.

Police are now telling businesses to bolt down their credit card readers or keep them behind the counter.

That’s exactly what Chile is doing.

But with a $16,000 loss, it’s too little, too late.

“That’s just a lot of money, because that’s how we run the store. You have to get money every week to pay bills,” Chile said.

He said the man who stole his machine was a regular customer and he thinks he may have been casing his store.

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Police said they have a number of suspects in these cases and they plan on releasing new information on Wednesday.

John Lauritsen